Adam Elsheimer

Dates1578 - 1610
BornFrankfurt am Main, Germany
DiedRome, Italy

Elsheimer was born in Germany near where Gillis van Coninxloo had settled, and his early works recall Coninxloo's ornamental treatment of foliage and his fantastic forests. After settling in Rome around 1600, Elsheimer replaced these Mannerist elements with simplicity. There he learned a new feeling for sculptural values and expressing mood through light and shadow from Caravaggio. Elsheimer painted in a miniature-like technique, mostly on small copper plates, yet he handled both pen and brush with amazing freedom. Above all, he invented a new type of landscape: rather than simply background, his gentle world enveloped figures with mysterious light and romantic charm. His intimate, deeply poetic visions immediately found admirers. He attracted artists from throughout Europe and was vastly influential in both Italy and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, Elsheimer had a "natural inclination for melancholy," according to biographer. After making a bad partnership with a rich, vain Dutch etcher, he became overwhelmed and unable to work. The etcher had the unproductive Elsheimer thrown into debtors' prison, which led to his death.